The Book of M by Peng Shepherd | Book Review 86/2019

The Book of M is a dystopic reimagining of a fairytale plot line and a caution to irresponsible children – you’re so careless, you would lose your own shadow. Indeed, in this novel, characters lose their shadows, and with it their memories and eventually their identities, but the reason is mysterious and the search for a cure leads these shadowless, and those who love them, traversing the wasteland of a now-defunct United States, heading south towards The One Who Gathers, hoping he can save them all.

The main characters include Orlando Zhang (though he goes by Ory, and then General), his wife Max, who has lost her shadow and run away from him with a tape recorder, leaving him messages she hope will eventually get back to him even if she can’t be saved. Other characters include former Olympic hopeful, Mahnaz Ahmadi and the amnesiac, who lost his memory even before the Forgetting began and established an alliance with Hemu Joshi, the first man to become shadowless, making the amnesiac both Patient zero and the hope that it all ends with him as well. Enter Garjarajan, an Indian elephant with an incredible capacity for memory, and his ability to recall and share not just his own experiences but that of other elephants he hasn’t met. Finally, recall the Peter Pan story where the boy loses his shadow but is eventually reconnected to it. Well, even the shadowless who no longer have memories, hold out this hope that they too can be made reunited with their shadows, even if it means giving up the magical powers they now have.

Throughout the bristling violence that marks the journey these characters must take, are the losses they all rack up along the way, for some losing loved ones and those they would share memories with if they still had them. The story includes a fair bit of magic and exaggerations and while this kind of genre fiction would usually be off-putting for me, the literary inclusions kept me intrigued.

Compliments

  • The elephant story was spellbinding and had me doing research to see whether this was indeed possible
  • The connections between the fairytales felt like it elevated this book
  • The magical elements felt really unique, although that could just be from me not reading a lot of fantasy novels that include this kind of world-building.

Quibbles

  • The multiple names used for each character felt distracting. Why give a character one name if you’re only going to refer to them as something else?
  • Some parts in the middle of the book could have been condensed to minimize the violence and still achieve the same objective.

Overall, I liked it more than I didn’t and gave it a  4 star rating. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this one and what you thought. And if you haven’t, I’d recommend you pick it up. The Book of M  is one of those books that you won’t know whether you’ll love until you try it for yourself

Book Details

  • Title: The Book of M 
  • Author: Peng Shepherd
  • Pages: 492
  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018
  • Publisher: William Morrow

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